The Livingston County Agriculture, Zoning and Emergency Service’s Committee toiled for more than two hours in its special meeting Tuesday evening, reviewing recommendations made by the Zoning Board of Appeals concerning county zoning for wind energy conversion systems and applications.
The AZES Committee informally agreed with the majority of the zoning board’s recommendations and moved to go into recess until next month’s regularly scheduled meeting, at which the committee expected to review new language concerning text amendments for the seven contiguous townships in the northeastern corner of the county that wanted laxer restrictions on wind energy projects.
Perhaps the most significant recommendation sent the committee’s way by the ZBA was the setback distance length, worded for the entire county absent a later text amendment: “All WECS towers shall be set back six times the height of tower or 3,000 feet, whichever is greater, from any primary structure.” This was changed from the language sent to the Zoning Board of Appeals, which originally had 3.75 times the height of the tower and 1,640 feet, respectively.
The definition of a primary structure was also altered, defined by the ZBA as a “structure utilizes primarily for sleeping purposes such as a residence,” in addition to such buildings as commercial buildings, hospitals, day care facilities and schools. Language excluding buildings such as sheds, pool houses, garages and barns from consideration as “primary structures” was redacted by the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The AZES Committee also reviewed other substantive changes suggested by the ZBA, such as its recommendation to shrink the the amount of feet a turbine could be moved from where it was originally sited before triggering a compliance review from 150 to 50 feet.
A proposed change that generated some discussion concerned the ZBA’s proposition that “shadow flicker shall not affect a primary structure in excess of 15 hours per year,” altered from the original 30 hours per year. Shadow flicker is defined as the flickering effect caused when rotating wind turbine blades periodically cast shadows through constrained openings such as the windows of neighboring properties.
Committee member Marty Fannin was of the opinion that leaving it at 30 hours per year would not recommend a substantive change. He asked what the Zoning Board of Appeals’ rationale was for the recommendation. John Redlingshafer, the Heyl Royster attorney retained by the county for this specific matter, reviewed the ZBA’s deliberations and read that they had found “evidence that indicates technological advances justify a reduction.”
When the matter was further explored, it became apparent that the evidence was based on testimony given by a sole individual.
“He said it, but he didn’t provide any evidence?” Fannin asked.
“Well, if he said it, technically its evidence,” Redlingshafer replied.
AZEC Committee Chairman Daryl Holt opined that the issue of the November referendum concerning setbacks and the other concerns being addressed at the meeting were being unfairly conflated at the expense of constituents.
“When we put the referendum out there, we never said anything about the flicker effect,” he said. “We’re putting a bunch of stuff in, saying, ‘These people get this set of rules’ and ‘these people get that set of rules,’ and really, the only question we asked was, ‘What kind of setback do you want?’”
The shadow flicker mitigation was one of the few recommendations that the committee did not informally accept.
The AZES Committee later examined what was to be done about the townships of Nevada, Dwight, Round Grove, Odell, Union, Broughton and Sullivan, which had voted in favor of reduced setbacks distances. Members of the committee informally approved having the lower setback distance of 1,600 feet approved, but wanted Redlingershafer and County Board Executive Director Alina Hartley to draft precise language for a bifurcated text amendment concerning only those townships ahead of the meeting’s resumption next week.
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